Twitter has banned 100 users from Kenya after an investigation found their accounts violated the platform’s tampering and spam guidelines by tweeting pre-set hashtags designed to misinform the public or attack certain personalities.
Twitter’s decision was taken after a three-month investigation by the American Internet service provider Mozilla. The research found that Kenyan influencers are paid between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500 to participate in three campaigns per day on Twitter.
“According to the research, our teams have a little over 100 Twitter accounts in Kenya, which we found violated our platform tampering and spam policy, “Twitter said in a statement after the results of the investigation conducted by Mozilla between May and June were released.
< p> “While we were unable to independently confirm the tweet-for-pay activity described in your report, we were able to confirm the presence of at least one network of coordinated accounts – apparently based on an earlier series of enforcements against similar ones Activities carried out by our teams in 2020 are declining, “said the microblogging website.
Kenya has approximately 11 million social media users, which is 20 percent of the Be make up the population. The use of social media to manipulate voters is not new. In 2018, UK data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica admitted its participation in Kenya’s 2013 and 2017 elections by influencing voters’ emotions after collecting data using third-party applications connected to Facebook. p>
Company executives were secretly taped by UK television station Channel 4, saying they carried out “almost every element” of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign in 2013 and 2017, including renaming his twice Party and writing the manifesto and speeches of the campaign. The company also said it had “two rounds of 50,000 polls”.
Although the anniversary party later denied commissioning Cambridge Analytica with negative social media campaigns against its main challenger Raila Odinga, the British had to Companies are closing after it became known that it influenced election results in a number of countries, including the United States.
A new study by Mozilla, titled “Inside the Shadowworld of Disinformation for Rent in Kenya” states that Kenyan political formations appear to have learned lessons from Cambridge Analytica and adopted the company’s modus operandi for the 2022 elections.
According to Mozilla, faceless people are paying influencers to use tweets with predefined hashtags at the same time ensure that their narratives tend to have significant visibility on Twitter.
The highly organized Beläs Advertisement and disinformation campaigns are aimed primarily at the two leading presidents of the President, Raila Odinga and DP William R uto, journalists, activists and the judiciary. According to the investigation, every two days Kenyans are fed a disinformation campaign on Twitter.
“This is a lucrative, well-oiled machine with very clear goals and, as a result, it terrifies good faith activism.” . The aim of these campaigns is to exhaust critical thinking and to poison the information environment by destroying the truth, “the research says.
” Twitter’s functions are used to achieve the goals of these campaigns. Their trending algorithm amplifies these campaigns, and accounts verified by the platform are complicit in leading these attacks, ”it says like elections, protests and important judicial decisions, as was the case when the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was on trial.
To achieve this, a large number of influencers are being mobilized on WhatsApp Groups of organizers who are on monthly salaries in excess of Sh25,000. Their job is to make sure campaigns are running daily and with different hashtags.
In the WhatsApp groups run by organizers, influencers are instructed what to tweet, what phrases to use and when which hashtag to use and who to contact. The idea for this mode of operation is that syncing tweets is important as it allows them to achieve the goal of the Twitter trending and get unsuspecting Kenyans to join in.
And to make the news more engaging too design, digital artists are used to create caricatures that mimic the style of editorial cartoons and memes with repetition of certain templates. According to the influencers who spoke to Mozilla, “All of this serves the purpose of making the content more palatable and more shareable.”
“Sometimes we really don’t know who we’re working for. Nowadays the promoter just sends us cash, content and the instructions one at a time and tells us to post, “said one disinformation influencer.
” Sometimes the money comes before the campaign and sometimes after the campaign. They’re usually careful not to hesitate for fear that we’ll reveal them on Twitter for lack of payment, ”said another influencer. Sponsored hashtags that have appeared on Twitter lately include Hustler Bandia, Ruaraka, Sympathy Addict, Justice for Sale, Kigeugeu, Kenya under Raila, Katiba Mbichi, Raila Hates Mt Kenya, Muthoniwa, Mboga za Uhuru, Master Sugu and Ruto’s Washwash Cartel.
Of the 11 sponsored hashtags uncovered during the investigation, Mozilla found that they were generated by 23,606 tweets and retweets from 3,742 accounts. Some of the accounts used for these campaigns came from verified personalities for authenticity and reinforcement.
“This type of inauthentic engagement is based on an age-old strategy . It is the online equivalent of the longstanding tradition of many Kenyan politicians to pay crowds to appear at political rallies to create the appearance of popularity. Retweets are much easier to come by, however, ”it says.
During the two-month investigation between May and June, at least 31 political hashtags, including the one with BBI, were found. And while there is very little evidence that such operations affect people’s opinions, investigators found that they do affect how Twitter users interact with their information environment.
“The target such operations is overwhelming. The aim is to create an environment in which nobody knows what is true or false, ”the investigation said.
During the investigation period, it was found that opponents of the BBI were severely attacked, including the judiciary The Supreme Court dismissed the May 14 referendum on the grounds that it was an unconstitutional initiative.
“Since then, a wave of disinformation attacks has been launched to discredit the independence of the judiciary and to question the correctness of their decision. In these anti-judicial campaigns, the aesthetic of the content of the campaigns began to shine through, “investigators found.
As if that wasn’t enough, the campaigns have also discredited civil society groups and activists against the BBI by portrayed them as villains funded by DP Ruto. Jerotich Seii, one of the members of the Linda Katiba campaign, told investigators that she spent a lot of time proving that her activism was real and that she was not a cover for anyone else.
” I had to spend a large part of my time defending my position as someone who is actually a patriot, who does what he does out of love for his country, “said Ms. Seii.
” Politicians’ playbook in the next election will be no different from what they did in the past. They will try to divide Kenyans along tribal lines. The demand for these services will therefore increase and many political parties will seek them out as part of their election campaign strategies, ”the research notes Campaigns participated include @ queen_maureen, @ maimuna225, @lulukendi, @kiplits_, @ harunirungu3, @masterretweeter, @mreggaesmith, @kiprono_hon, @itsdavidmaina and @karembokanax.
Many of these accounts tweet the same hashtags for days will constantly retweet a specific group of accounts. Interestingly, while these accounts appear to be authentic, they are fake and use “suggestive images of women on their profiles to trick men into following them, or at least paying attention.”